Short Life of Trouble: The Legend of G.B. Grayson

From Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, Gilliam Banmon Grayson (1887-1930) was a blind fiddler from one of the most isolated regions on the East Coast. Largely unknown, he may be one of the most influential musicians in the history of bluegrass and country music. His music has been recorded and performed by world-famous musicians including Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Doc Watson, Dr. Ralph Stanly, and the Kingston Trio, among many others. Yet, very few people have an inkling of who G.B. Grayson was and what he accomplished in only two years of professional recording.

In this film, we explore G.B. Grayson's life and tragic death and how his musical legacy lives on today. Grayson's most famous songs include: Tom Dooley, Train 45, Handsome Molly, Short Life of Trouble, Going down the Lee Highway, Omie Wise, Rose Conley, Banks of the Ohio, and Little Maggie.

This film includes interviews with: Ketch Secor (Old Crow Medicine Show), Emmy nominated folksinger/songwriter John McCutcheon, Ralph Stanley II, Kody Norris (The Kody Norris Show), Josh Beckworth (Author of Always Been a Rambler), several of G.B. Grayson's Grandchildren, and many more.

Since it's August, 2021 release, Short Life of Trouble has been recognized by twelve film festivals and has won four awards including Best Tennessee Short Documentary at the Franklin International Indie Film Festival and a special Jury Award for Best Documentary Short Film at the Port Blair International Film Festival. Other film festivals recognizing SLOT include the Oxford Film Festival, Louisville’s International Festival of Film, the Richmond International Film Festival, the Friday Harbor Film Festival, the UPIKE Film and Media Arts Festival, the Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival, the Global Film & Music Festival USA, the Audio Shoot International Music Video and Film Festival, the World Music and Independent Film Festival, and the Wake Forest Film Festival.

This film was funded in part by the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Arts Fund of the East Tennessee Foundation, The Johnson County Center for the Arts, Germain Media, Appalachian Memory Keepers, and private donors.

  • E. Kelley St. Germain
    Remembering The Creeper: Ashe County and the N&W Railroad
  • Kelley St. Germain
    Remembering The Creeper: Ashe County and the N&W Railroad
  • E. Kelley St. Germain
    Remembering The Creeper
  • Ketch Secor
    Key Cast
  • John McCutcheon
    Key Cast
  • Ralph Stanley II
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    History, Music
  • Runtime:
    39 minutes 20 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 25, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - E. Kelley St. Germain

Originally from western Kentucky (USA) via northern New Hampshire, Kelley has resided in North Carolina since graduating from Wake Forest University with a BA in History & Economics (1989) and a MA in history (1991). In 2000 he opened Germain Media LLC, which has become an award-winning digital studio. Over the years he has created numerous historical documentaries (40) for a regional television network. In 2014 he received a 2014 TeleChoice Award from the Rural Broadband Association for creating and directing the best local video content/series in the United States. In 2015 he directed West Jefferson's Centennial: A History of our Town and in 2018 Remembering the Creeper: Ashe County and the N&W Railroad. Both projects received awards from the North Carolina Society of Historians.

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Director Statement

I chose to write, direct, and produce Short Life of Trouble because I love a good history mystery. For years I have heard bits and rumors about this mysterious mountain fiddler named GB Grayson, who tragically died while on the cusp of super stardom. After a friend wrote a Grayson biography, I was inspired to tell G.B.'s story in film. Little did I know, two and a half years ago, how difficult that would prove to be. G.B. Grayson is literally a ghost. By that I mean only 4 photos of him even exist and we have none of his personal papers or letters (supposedly they were all stolen back in the 1950s). No newspaper print interviews exist and he was never on TV. So the only way to get a measure of the man was to try and investigate his influence on others and by examing the musical legacy he has left us. And what a musical legacy it is! It was truly a pleasure and honor to throw a little bit of light on his life and legacy and try to insure that he is given the credit that he is LONG overdue for his monumental influence upon oldtime, bluegrass, and country music.